Shane Southwell, Angel Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder

No. 13 K-State beats Cyclones, seizes control of Big 12 race

2 Comments

It’s been a great hoops season in the state of Kansas, with all three of the state’s DI teams battling for league titles and national rankings. But as of right now, there can be no debate. The best team in the Sunflower State is the Kansas State Wildcats.

K-State dumped a tough, rangy Iowa State team by a score of 79-70 on Saturday evening, moving to 8-2 in league play and sole possession of first place in the Big 12. Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are getting it done with Rodney McGruder’s star power and a solid supporting cast that makes ball control a way of life.

They’ll put those skills to the ultimate test on Monday, as they travel to Allen Fieldhouse and attempt to hand Kansas a fourth-straight loss, which would solidify K-State’s hold on the league lead in a very emphatic and regionally satisfying way. After Monday’s game, the Wildcats have six straight games against unranked foes before ending the season with a trip to current No. 22 Oklahoma State.

Kansas has won the last eight regular-season Big 12 titles, but Kansas State’s well-timed victory over Iowa State, and a chance to sit in the driver’s seat in the league race means more than just local bragging rights. K-State has never won the Big 12. In fact, the last time they won a league title was in 1977, when it was still the Big 8.

The Wildcats can stay on track against a very vulnerable KU team on Monday by doing exactly what they did against Iowa State. K-State shot 50 percent overall as well as 50 percent from behind the arc. Four players – McGruder (22), Angel Rodriguez (20), Thomas Gipson (16) and Martavious Irving (10) – scored in double figures, and the team as a whole shot over 80 percent from the line.

The sudden change from Frank Martin to Bruce Weber was jarring for K-State fans. Eight years of watching in-state rival Kansas win the league title was frustrating, and the long, long time without a title of any kind has to be downright galling.

All of that can be washed away. The Wildcats have rarely had a better chance than they do right now.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
Leave a comment

Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Leave a comment

Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: